IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Hearing Highlights Urgency of Passing STOP Act and Implementing AED to Close Postal Opioid Pipeline

Last week, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade held a hearing entitled “Stopping the Flow of Synthetic Opioids in the International Mail System” that cast further light on the need to close the drug pipeline in the global postal network. Committee members spoke with Todd Owen, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s executive assistant commissioner for the office of field operations, and Robert Cintron, vice president of network operations for the U.S. Postal Service, on the importance of stopping the staggering amount of fentanyl, carfentanil and other deadly synthetic opioids that increasingly enter the country through the mail. Throughout the hearing, participants spoke of the need for the USPS to implement comprehensive advance electronic data (AED) – vital security information needed by CBP and other law enforcement agencies to effectively screen and stop dangerous shipments, including drugs, that enter the country from abroad.

While AED is required for packages delivered by private carriers, it is not mandated on packages sent through the global postal network and delivered by USPS. CBP officials have confirmed that AED is crucial for drug interdiction efforts, meaning this discrepancy has provided international drug traffickers with easy access to American communities. Multiple members of Congress highlighted the importance of passing the bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which would close this loophole by requiring AED on all foreign packages sent into the U.S.

Highlights from the hearing are included below:

Executive Assistant Commissioner Todd Owen, CBP Office of Field Operations: The manual inspection of volumes like [international shipments] are not efficient and not effective. We need advanced electronic information so we can use our targeting system to identify those shipments that pose a greater risk and then initiate the proper inspection protocols.

Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA): For the last 15 years, Customs and Border Protection, by law, has required private carriers to transmit advance electronic data on shipments entering the United States. The data typically includes the shipper and recipient name and address, as well as the package contents – all of which help CBP identify high-risk shipments. CBP has exercised its discretion not to impose this data requirement on the Postal Service because the Postal Service operates in a different environment than private carriers. As a result, international mail shipments arrive in the United States with little information. This lack of data creates a significant vulnerability that can be easily exploited by drug traffickers. 

Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ): Given this high volume of international shipments, more data is needed for international shipments to catch synthetic opiates at the ports of entry before they enter our country and devastate so many of our communities. To address this vulnerability, I was proud to sponsor the “Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention,” or STOP Act, with my friend Congressman Pat Tiberi and Ranking Member Neal. This bill would require the Postal Service to transmit advance electronic data to Customs and Border Patrol on international shipments into the United States.

Representative Mike Bishop (R-MI): We’ve got a big job on our hands to get ahold of [fentanyl]. That’s why I’m working with my associates here, my colleagues in Congress to introduce a bill that would close the loophole and make it harder for these drugs to enter illegally. And I’m glad to pick up where Representative Tiberi left off on the STOP Act… This will enable our respective agencies to better target potentially illegal packages and keep these dangerous drugs from ending up in the hands of drug traffickers who want to harm our communities and our children.

The STOP Act has wide, bipartisan support, with over 260 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and 32 in the Senate. The bill is also endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the American Medical Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.